An open letter to Sen.-elect Konni Burton, who blocked me on Twitter

house-of-cards-quotes-1Jan. 7, 2015

Dear Sen.-elect Konni Burton:

Next Tuesday, Jan. 13, you will be sworn into the Texas Senate. After more than a year of campaigning, you will become Senator Konni Burton, the conservative Republican representing Senate District 10 in the Lone Star State.

You declared your candidacy in a video by slamming your predecessor, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, for her filibuster against anti-abortion legislation. By running in Texas’ only competitive Senate district, you knew you’d be in the national spotlight. Judging by your campaign finance records after declaring your candidacy, you certainly became a national sensation.

Over the next year, you clobbered your GOP opponents — deemed “Republicans in Name Only” by your supporters — in the primary and run-off elections. Finally, you bested your Democratic opponent in the general election. As expected in tight elections, both you and your opponents were critical of your each other in nasty television commercials, advertisements and mailers.

That was clear enough when mailers appeared in the mailboxes of voters across SD-10, slamming your Democratic opponent for everything from being anti-gun to advancing your own anti-LGBT issues. While your spokesman denied the connection to the anti-LGBT mailer sent by the NFC, my research revealed the all-too-cozy connections between your campaign network and the mailers.

Clearly you are willing to give criticism. But I’m concerned you may not be receptive to it, even if it’s rooted in fact.

That’s why I’m writing you. It may seem small, but I couldn’t help but wonder why you blocked me on Twitter. Because I’m a reporter who critically wrote about your campaign? (A sentiment not exclusive to you, I might add.) Because I culled through campaign finance and other records, leading to a story about the dark money and shady mailers surrounding your campaign operation? I knew journalism rankles feathers, but facts are facts.

I didn’t realize doing my job was such an ongoing threat. Of course, neither did Bethany Rodgers, a reporter with the Frederick, Md.’s News-Post, who was threatened with a lawsuit by Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter for using his name without his permission. #kirbydelauter

As of Jan. 13, you will be an elected official, #StateSenKonniBurton. That is exactly what you campaigned on. You got what you wanted. Hopefully you’ll also act like an elected official, too.

Sincerely,

James Russell

Dallas Voice

P.S.: You can follow me on Twitter @james4texas

—  James Russell

Rep. Louie Gohmert loses bid for House Speaker

Louie GohmertOn Sunday (Jan. 4), Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, announced his intention to challenge Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, for House Speaker.

“After the November elections gave Republicans control of the Senate, voters made clear they wanted change,” he said in a statement. There have been numerous examples of problematic Republican leadership, but we were hopeful our leaders got the voters’ message. However, after our Speaker forced through the CRomnibus [the spending bill] by passing it with Democratic votes and without time to read it, it seemed clear that we needed new leadership. There had been much discussion.”

Today (Jan. 6), the first day of the new Congress, the raucous Tea Party Republican lost to Boehner. A last minute challenger, Rep. Dan Webster, R-Florida, even received more votes than Gohmert, 12-3.

Five candidates were formally nominated, including Boehner, Tea Party Republican Reps. Ted Yoho and Dan Webster, both of Florida, and former Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

Boehner was expected to easily be re-nominated despite the challenges from the right-wing of his party. He was elected by a slim margin in January 2013 after a failed attempt by a faction of his caucus. At least 12 Democrats were attending former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s funeral, Politico noted, while others did not show up at all. Every absent Democrat lowered the threshold for the Ohio Republican’s re-election.

Four Democrats also bucked their party’s leadership and voted for a candidate other than Pelosi.

The Washington Post has a full list of defectors on both sides of the aisle here.

If you’re an avid Dallas Voice reader, you probably know all about Gohmert; a search of our archives alone yields 22 mentions. He’s well-known for his conspiracy theories and opposition to LGBT legislation. He called ENDA “a continuation of the Obama administration’s ‘war on religion.’” He was among the first inductees in HRC’s Hall of Shame last year and is a frequent recipient of the Advocate’s Phobie Awards.

Openly bisexual Rep. Krysten Sinema, D-Arizona, and one of the four Democrats to not vote for Pelosi, spoke for all of us when she did this:

—  James Russell

Guns, God and gays: first day of prefiling for upcoming Lege session

abaa8de7236b4022851ea2557e2d68b0dc212ddb6ea8b427616006bb297bd2cdToday is the first day for Texas legislators and members-elect to pre-file legislation for the 84th legislative session. This means you get to see just how crazy some of your newly and returning elected officials really are. Don’t worry everyone, the first day of pre-filing didn’t bring out the worst of your electeds just yet. Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, only filed a handful actually, so the worst is yet to come.

As of mid-afternoon, legislators have pre-filed 336 bills.

Rep. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, filed four bills commemorating the National Day of Prayer, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed HB 195, loosening restrictions on gun toting. Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, is gonna keep abortionists out of the classroom with HB 205.

But wait! LGBT people were recognized by our allies!

Out Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, filed HB 70, an anti-bullying bill preventing discrimination against and harassment of students in public schools based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed HJR34, one of many bills targeting the repeal of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban. As the Voice reported, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, filed HB 130, repealing Texas’ same sex marriage ban. The identical SB 98, was filed by Sens. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. Sen. Rodríguez also filed SB 148, repealing language condemning homosexuality in the state’s health and penal codes.

 

 

—  James Russell

Know your rights; make your vote count

U.S. Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Special Contributor

 

Unlike any other time in American history, it is important for all eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Nov. 4.

Recently, there has been significant dialogue regarding which party will control the House and the Senate in Washington. These conversations highlight a very real point: This election is critical to the future of minorities and middle-class Americans.

Voter engagement is crucial.

In minority communities, there is a common misconception that voter turnout is only important during presidential elections. But adhering to this school of thought could result in more than a decade of financial and political oppression.

It is not enough to see massive voter turnout in 2016; the same level of voter turnout must occur on Nov. 4.

Since the election of President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president, the Republican Party has become the “Obstructionist” Party. During the current Congress, the GOP has done everything in its power to ensure the ineffective operation of our federal government. For example, in 2013 the Republican Party caused a government shutdown.

Now, with the help of the U.S.  Supreme Court, the Obstructionist Party has shifted its efforts to implementing new voter ID laws and unconstitutional “poll taxes” that block the votes of approximately 600,000 eligible voters in Texas.

The new Texas voter ID law lists state driver’s licenses, voter identification certificates, state ID cards, concealed gun permits, military IDs, citizenship certificates and passports as the only forms of permissible voter identification.

Student ID cards, issued by the state’s colleges and universities, and other forms of government identification, including a voter registration card, are not acceptable forms of ID under the law.

The ability to utilize concealed gun licenses as a form of acceptable voter identification highlights the reality that these new laws were created to favor a specific demographic, while disenfranchising others. Why would a state deliberately violate the civil rights of millions of its residents?

Research shows that if African-Americans and Latinos successfully turned out to vote, many so-called red states would become blue.

A Congress controlled by Democrats would guarantee a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. This would occur during the first 100 days of a new Congress.

Additionally, increased access to early childhood education would become a reality, and the Equal Pay Act, which ensures that women earn the same wages as their male counterparts, would go into effect.

But none of these vital changes will occur without proper voter education and participation.

To be prepared for the Nov. 4 election, I encourage all voters to prepare themselves by visiting www.sos.state.tx.us to confirm their registration status. Voters can also visit www.votetexasgov to learn their correct polling places, and know their rights.

Do not allow yourself to be denied your right to vote based on technicalities. Educate yourself and vote on Nov. 4 to strengthen our democracy.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson represents Texas’ 30th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. She is a longtime ally of the LGBT community.

—  Tammye Nash

Only seven Texans receive perfect score in HRC Congressional scorecard

TexasThe Human Rights Campaign today, Oct. 9 released its Congressional Scorecard measuring support for LGBT equality in the 113th Congress. Only seven of Texas’ 38-member delegation received perfect scores, even as results show record gains in support for LGBT equality.

Members of Congress were scored based on their votes and co-sponsorships of pieces of legislation that are key indicators of support for LGBT equality, and for the first time ever, their public support for marriage equality, according to a statement provided by HRC.

“We stand at a critical juncture in our fight for full LGBT equality,” said Chad Griffin, president of HRC. “While we’ve made tremendous progress in gaining support from our elected officials in Congress, we certainly still have much to accomplish.”

His statement could not be more true, especially within the Texas delegation.

Of Texas’ 36 House representatives and two senators, only seven House Democrats received a 100 percent score. They are Reps. Al Green, Beto O’Rourke, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett, along with Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth.

Other Texas Democrats had mixed scores: Rubén Hinojosa, 89 percent; Pete Gallego, Henry Cuellar and Gene Green, 68 percent; Filemon Vela, 84 percent. Gallego represents the only congressional swing district in Texas.

In the Republican camp, five Republicans received 30 percent: Louie Gohmert (no, really), Ted Poe, John Culberson, Pete Olson and Steve Stockman, who lost a primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn earlier this year. Cornyn, by the way, scored zero while his colleague in the Senate, Sen. Ted Cruz, scored 20 percent.

To the North Texans looking at this list, unless you live in Johnson or Veasey’s district, your congressperson scored zero. A difference of 100 percent — 100 percent.

No other member of the local delegation even got brownie points for saying “gay.” That includes: Reps. Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, Kay Granger, Ralph Hall, Jeb Hensarling, Sam Johnson, Kenny Marchant, Pete Sessions and Roger Williams.

(Don’t know who represents you? Click here and type in your info.)

Want to change that? Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 20 and runs through Friday, Oct. 31. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

—  James Russell

Bipartisan bill would protect global LGBT rights

Rep. John Tierney introduced a bipartisan bill to protect LGBT people worldwide.

Rep. John Tierney introduced a bipartisan bill to protect LGBT people worldwide.

A bill recently introduced by a bipartisan group of representatives in Congress would protect and advance the global rights of LGBT people if passed.

Reps. John F. Tierney, D-M.A., Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., and Richard, R-N.Y., introduced the International Human Rights Defense Act Wednesday, July 16. Sen. Edward Markey, D-M.A., introduced the bill in the Senate on June 3.

If passed, the bill would direct the Department of State to prioritize protecting LGBT people worldwide. The bill would require the department to develop a strategy to promote and protect LGBT rights worldwide and also appoint a “Special Envoy on the Human Rights of LGBT People” to oversee the strategy.

According to American Jewish World Service, a chief proponent of the bill, 77 countries jail people for having same-sex relations. Five of those countries allow LGBT people to be put to death.

“Defending the rights of LGBT people worldwide is crucial, as many governments are passing punitive laws and sanctioning acts of hate against LGBT people,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “As American Jews, we are members of a minority whose rights have been trampled in the past, and we understand fully that neither nor our government can stand by as the rights of vulnerable minorities are trampled in other parts of the world.”

—  James Russell

Tea party group makes surprising endorsement

The tea party is certainly not one unified political organization. And as a group the tea party has not backed any one particular GOP presidential candidate. While many supported Michele Bachmann, there’s been no consensus. But most tea party support has gone to Republicans and most tea party candidates have run as Republicans.

President Barack Obama

But one Tea Party endorsement is surprising. A group has formed called Tea Party for Obama.

Huh?

Well, they explain.

“We manned up and realized that the problem is that the recession began during the previous administration,” they wrote.

They wrote that they’re tired of being called nut jobs and racists and looked at all the candidates and found no one to support on the Republican side. So they looked at Barack Obama’s record.

Reducing the size of government and the amount people pay in taxes are two main tea party demands.

Just a few weeks ago, the president proposed combining agencies to reduce the size of government and make it easier to do business with the government.

And taxes?

“Last time we checked, Obama forced GOP in Congress to approve tax cuts for payroll,” they wrote.

Here’s Tea Party for Obama’s list of the president’s accomplishments:

• Reduced government size
• Largest tax cut ever
• Provided health care for everyone
• Protected Medicare
• Saved country from the worst recession ever
• Saved the U.S. auto industry
• Took out Osama bin Laden

So is this an actual tea party group or is this a group of Democrats co-opting the tea party name for attention? The website doesn’t give a clue because no names or other information is included.

—  David Taffet

Karger beat Bachmann by 138 votes in NH

Fred Karger

The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office corrected vote totals in the New Hampshire primary and openly gay candidate Fred Karger received 485 votes to Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s 347. The original vote tally had Karger trailing Bachmann, who dropped out of the race after her last-place finish in Iowa, by three votes. Karger received votes in every New Hampshire county.

“Congresswoman Bachmann was in 12 national debates, raised $10 to $12 million, received massive news coverage, has huge name ID and we beat her in New Hampshire,” Karger wrote in an email blast to supporters today. “She and I had been tied in several recent New Hampshire polls. Early last month I said that I wanted to beat Santorum or Bachmann in New Hampshire. It’s a big win for me.”

Karger is skipping the South Carolina and Florida primaries. From New Hampshire he headed to Michigan, which holds its primary on Feb. 28.

“There are only seven Republicans still in the running on that ballot and [I] am sure there will be a few less after South Carolina and Florida,” he said. “I will be competing in [the] Michigan Primary no matter what.”

—  David Taffet

Fate of Texas primaries still up in the air after SCOTUS hearing today

Anybody expecting to get some hint of resolution to the redistricting battle raging here in Texas following oral arguments over the issue today before the U.S. Supreme Court is probably disappointed, as it seems the justices want to see the Texas primary elections, already postponed from March to April 3, pushed back to an even later date.

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

According Associated Press legal affairs reporter Mark Sherman (as quoted on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s blog, PoliTex), “The justices discussed moving the primary date back further to give the courts handling different aspects of the case more time. ‘Why can’t this all be pushed back, and wouldn’t that eliminate a lot of the problems we are grappling with in this case?’ Justice Samuel Alito asked.”

And TheHill.com indicates that justices were not happy with either the map drawn last year by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature or with the interim map drawn last month by federal judges in San Antonio, quoting Chief Justice John Roberts as saying during today’s hearing, “How do you decide between two wrong choices?”

TheHill.com also said, “Most justices indicated they thought both maps were unacceptable and could not be put into law without violating the Voting Rights Act.”

The Legislature’s map favors Republicans, especially in Tarrant County where Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis saw her district taken away, with portions of it allocated to more Republican-leaning areas north and south of Fort Worth.

—  admin

Still no single clear leader in Republican presidential contest

Romney often under fire from conservatives for changing positions on issues including LGBT rights

Romney.Mitt.2

Mitt Romney

STEVEN R. HURST  |  Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

WASHINGTON — Republicans are growing significantly less satisfied with the field of candidates to challenge President Barack Obama next year, and they are about evenly split in their support for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds.

Despite Obama’s low approval ratings and deep vulnerability over his handling of the U.S. economy, the poll of all people surveyed, including Democrats and independents, found Romney and the president statistically even. Obama leads Gingrich 51 percent to 42 percent.

With three weeks remaining before the Iowa caucus, the first contest where voters actually declare their choice of a candidate, Romney’s argument that his Washington outsider status sets him apart has not blocked Gingrich’s stunning climb to the top of the field.

A similar AP-GfK poll of Republicans in October found Gingrich well behind the leading candidates, with 7 percent. Romney had 30 percent.

The new poll conducted earlier this month finds Gingrich preferred by 33 percent of Republicans and Romney by 27 percent. However, that finding falls just within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Gingrich,Newt

Newt Gingrich

All other candidates are in single digits.

The poll also found a considerable drop in satisfaction with the overall Republican field. In October, 66 percent of Republican adults were satisfied, and 29 percent unsatisfied. Now, 56 percent are satisfied and 40 percent unsatisfied.

Voter preferences in early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina do not necessarily match those in national polls. The Iowa caucus is Jan. 3. The New Hampshire primary is one week later.

At a time when polls show plummeting public approval of government, the 68-year-old Gingrich has a long history in the capital as a member of Congress, speaker of the House of Representatives and, since 1998, a lucrative, Washington-based consultant, speaker and author.

Except for four years as Massachusetts governor, Romney, 64, has spent his career in business and management. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1994 and for president in 2008.

Both men have earned millions of dollars over the years.  Romney has built his campaign largely on the argument that his business background makes him better suited for the presidency than anyone else, especially on creating jobs in an economy where unemployment remains at 8.6 percent. But in a recent debate in Iowa, Romney at first struggled to name issues on which he and Gingrich disagree.

After citing Gingrich’s support for a mining colony on the moon and changes to child labor laws, Romney said: “The real difference, I believe, is our backgrounds. I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how the economy works.”

Among Republicans who say they prefer a non-Washington candidate, Romney has a modest edge over Gingrich. Gingrich has a larger advantage among those who say they prefer Washington experience in a nominee.

Romney’s better showing in a head-to-head matchup with Obama may give him some ammunition with Republicans whose top priority is ousting the president. Otherwise, Republicans appear to see Romney and Gingrich as similar in many important ways. The two men polled about evenly on the questions of who would be a strong leader, has the right experience, understands ordinary people’s problems and can bring needed change. Romney holds a clear edge on who is most likable. Gingrich leads on the question of who “has firm policy positions.” Romney is often asked about his changed positions on abortion, gay rights, gun control and immigration. Gingrich, however, also has shifted views on key issues.

AP Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas